November 19, 2012 - 2012 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards



November 19, 2012

 Media Contacts: Rachel Flor (617) 514-1662
JFK Library Foundation  
Esten Perez (617) 496-4009
Harvard’s Institute of Politics

Georgia House Minority Leader and
Detroit Social Entrepreneur to be
Honored by Caroline Kennedy as Recipients of
2012 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards

Boston, MA - Caroline Kennedy today will present the ninth annual John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards to Stacey Abrams, Georgia House Minority Leader and the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly, and Veronika Scott, founder of The Empowerment Plan, an innovative humanitarian project that is creating a new garment industry in Detroit by hiring the city’s homeless women. The awards will be presented at 5:30 p.m. this evening during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum [watch live webcast].

“Stacey Abrams reminds us that good relationships make for good politics, and that compromise is often the most direct path to progress. Veronika Scott turned a class project into an engine of opportunity and hope for the citizens of Detroit. They both are inspiring examples of my father’s belief that every person can make a difference,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Chair of the Senior Advisory Committee for Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

The John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards were created by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Harvard’s Institute of Politics to honor Americans under the age of 40 who are changing their communities and the country with their commitment to public service. The awards are presented annually to two exceptional individuals whose contributions in elective office, community service, or advocacy demonstrate the impact and the value of public service in the spirit of John F. Kennedy.

One of the New Frontier Awards honors an elected official whose work demonstrates the importance of elective service as a way to address a public challenge or challenges.  This award, called the Fenn Award, is presented to a young elected official in honor of Dan Fenn, the Kennedy Library’s first director and a former member of President Kennedy’s staff.  The other New Frontier Award honors an individual whose contributions in the realm of community service, advocacy or grassroots activism have had a positive impact on a broad public policy issue or challenge.

For more information visit the Kennedy Presidential Library’s website at or the Institute of Politics’ website at

Stacey Abrams
House Minority Leader, Georgia General Assembly
Fenn Award Recipient

Stacey Abrams, 38, is the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly, and the first African-American to lead in the Georgia House of Representatives. First elected in 2006, Abrams has made a mark as a thoughtful, open-minded legislator and a master of detail in the formulation of public policy.

In 2010, Georgia House Democrats elected Abrams to lead their caucus. Abrams quickly earned a reputation - and respect - on both sides of the aisle for working across party lines on important legislation. She faced some resistance among Democratic caucus members for her policy of engagement with the Republican majority. However, her approach allowed her to “put her stamp on proposals that could easily have become law without any input from the minority party,” as longtime Atlanta Journal-Constitution political columnist Jim Galloway wrote. In one instance, amid debate over funding reductions for a landmark statewide scholarship program, Abrams negotiated the restoration of a full-day pre-kindergarten program that had been a target for cuts.

In January 2012, Governing magazine named Abrams one of twelve state legislators to watch. Prior to her election to the Georgia House, Abrams was Deputy City Attorney for the city of Atlanta. Before that, she was a tax attorney at an Atlanta law firm, where she focused on tax-exempt organizations, health care and public finance.

Stacey Abrams is a magna cum laude graduate of Spelman College. She earned a master’s degree in public policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. 

Veronika Scott
Founder, The Empowerment Plan

Two years ago, Veronika Scott, then an industrial design major at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, began working on a class assignment: “Design to fill a need.” She spent months at a community shelter, learning about the needs of the homeless men and women she met. In particular, she was struck by the needs of those who preferred sleeping on the street to sleeping in the shelter, whether for reasons of privacy or pride or drug addiction or mental illness.

For her class project, Scott designed a winter coat that converted into a sleeping bag. The prototype weighed 20 pounds and took 80 hours to make, once she learned how to sew. But Scott, by then invested in the lives of the men and women she’d met, spent all her money refining her design and, in the process, expanded her vision of social change.

In less than two years, Scott has transformed her class project into a non-profit enterprise that stands to make a difference in the lives of thousands. In a previously abandoned warehouse, using donated materials and equipment from General Motors and Carhartt, Scott is now employing homeless women to make self-heated, waterproof, convertible coats for Detroit’s homeless population. Her initiative, now called the Empowerment Plan, has already enabled one of her employees to move out of the shelter and into her own apartment. Others may soon follow.

By the end of this year, working entirely from donations, the women Veronika Scott has hired will have sewn and shipped 800 coats. Scott hopes to make 2,000 coats in 2013.

Veronika Scott is a graduate of the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

At the New Frontier Awards ceremony, Caroline Kennedy will present Abrams and Scott each with a ship’s navigational compass in a wooden box bearing the inscription: “We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier….I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier.”  – John F. Kennedy.

The New Frontier Awards are named after President Kennedy's bold challenge to Americans given in his acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention on July 15, 1960:

We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier…a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils -- a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats. The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises -- it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook -- it holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security…. Beyond that frontier are the uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. It would be easier to shrink back from that frontier, to look to the safe mediocrity of the past, to be lulled by good intentions and high rhetoric…but I believe the times demand new invention, innovation, imagination, decision. I am asking each of you to be pioneers on that New Frontier.

A distinguished bipartisan committee of political and community leaders selected Abrams and Scott based on their contributions to the public and their embodiment of the forward-looking public idealism to which President Kennedy hoped young Americans would aspire. Past recipients of the New Frontier Awards include: Luke Ravenstahl, Mayor of Pittsburgh; Jennifer Staple-Clark, Founder of Unite for Sight; Hector Balderas, New Mexico Auditor; Lateefah Simon, Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of San Francisco; Patrick Murphy, former U.S. Representative, 8th District of Pennsylvania; Rebecca Onie, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Health Leads; Cory A. Booker, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey; Giovanna Negretti, co-founder and Executive Director of the Boston-based non-profit ¿Oiste?; Jay Williams, Director of Office of Recovery for Autoworkers and Communities; Zainab Salbi, Founder and CEO of Women for Women International; Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles City Council President; Jane Leu, Founder of Upwardly Global; Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General; Kica Matos, Program Executive and Head of U.S.. Program, Reconciliation and Human Rights, The Atlantic Philanthropies; Karen Carter, Louisiana State Senator; and Wendy Kopp, Founder and CEO of Teach for America.

The 2012 John F. Kennedy New Frontier Awards Committee was chaired by Tom McNaught, Executive Director, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, and Trey Grayson, Director, Institute of Politics. Committee members are: Ranny Cooper, President  & COO, Weber Shandwick Public Affairs and former Chief of Staff for Senator Edward M. Kennedy; Dan Fenn, former member of President John F. Kennedy’s staff and former Director of the John F. Kennedy Library; Tina Flournoy, Assistant to the President for Public Policy, American Federation of Teachers; Rachel Kaprielian, Massachusetts Registrar of Motor Vehicles and 1999 recipient, Fenn Award; Kica Matos, Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice, Center for Community Change and recipient, 2005 New Frontier Award; Kristin McSwain, Chief of Program Operations, Corporation for National and Community Service; Rick Musiol, Senior Vice President and Director of Public Affairs, Citizens Bank of Massachusetts; The Honorable Doug Palmer, former Mayor, Trenton, NJ (1990-2010); and Barbara Souliotis, former State Director, Office of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Harvard University’s Institute of Politics both have their origins in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Inc., a non-profit corporation that was chartered in Massachusetts on December 5, 1963, to construct and equip the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Massachusetts.

The Kennedy Library Corporation raised more than $20 million for both the construction of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and for the creation and endowment of an institute at Harvard for the study of politics and public affairs. More than 30 million people from around the world, including school children, contributed to the fund.

In 1966, the Kennedy Library Corporation presented Harvard University with an endowment for the creation of the Institute of Politics (IOP).  Established as a memorial to President Kennedy, the IOP’s mission is to unite and engage students, particularly undergraduates, with academics, politicians, activists, and policymakers on a non-partisan basis to inspire them to consider careers in politics and public service. Located at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, the Institute strives to promote greater understanding and cooperation between the academic world and the world of politics and public affairs. 

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation provides financial support, staffing, and creative resources for the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, a presidential library administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the Kennedy Library Foundation seek to promote, through educational and community programs, a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.